Wednesday, July 20, 2022


"Great trumpet players can play soft!" That was the advice from one of the most powerful players on the planet, Mel Broiles, first trumpet at the Metropolitan Opera Orchestra for 45 years. 

I remember him for the three P's, passion, power and pizzazz. Endurance, transposition, and volume were the goals at every lesson. A well-bruised embouchure came to be the mark of honor for all of his students.  Nothing was to be played with tentative shyness. He exuded a confidence that was off the charts. I left those lessons loaded for bear and ready to unleash electrifying heroics for the neighbors! 

So, to hear this one-sentence lesson from him some years later was a stunner. I wish he had stressed the soft end of playing as much as he did the aggressive dynamics. As we all eventually learn, the soft stuff can kill us easier than the blasting. Good quiet playing will actually help the loud playing. 

A few notes on practicing the soft stuff:

  • Increase your amount of quiet practice.
  • Don't lose expression when playing pianissimo. Increase it.
  • Go from loud to soft constantly.
  • Practice fortissimo passages in pianissimo.
  • Pretend you're practicing so as not to awaken the baby.
  • Rest more. Take a day off.
"Great trumpet players can play soft!"

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